AT&T closed a $207 million acquisition of FiberTower, adding hundreds of mmWave spectrum licences to its portfolio.
In a statement, the operator said the transaction provides it with a “significant footprint in the 39GHz band,” with an average of more than 375MHz of spectrum in the top 100 US markets. AT&T added it will use the airwaves to help deliver on its plan to launch mobile 5G in a dozen markets by the end of this year.
The news comes just after FiberTower cut a deal with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to settle ongoing litigation which was preventing transfer of the licences to AT&T. As part of the deal, FiberTower agreed to surrender all of its 24GHz licences and a portion of its 39GHz holdings, but retained approximately 478 licences in the latter band.
Approval of the FCC deal came despite the objection of groups including the Competitive Carriers Association, which urged the regulator to take back FiberTower’s licences and auction them off to interested operators instead. The FCC said in January the 24GHz licences reclaimed as part of the settlement will be auctioned to expedite 5G deployments.
FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn also protested the agency’s approval of the transaction without a vote by the full commission. Clyburn said in a statement she would not necessarily have voted against the approval, but claimed the FCC’s analysis of the deal is “lacking”.
“I believe that our statutory obligations, under the Communications Act, requires us to do more than simply consider whether AT&T’s 39GHz holdings, post-transaction, exceed 1850 megahertz of millimetre wave spectrum. The Commission should also consider whether AT&T’s substantial holdings in other spectrum bands, including below 1GHz, together with these 39GHz licences from FiberTower, could result in potential public interest harms.”